Pop away your Monopoly counters and shelf the tiddlywinks; this film is like a real life Cluedo with black comedy attached around mostly every corner.
Competitive husband and wife Max and Annie (Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams) regularly host weekend game nights with four of their friends, but now that Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) is on the scene, game night is stepped up a notch with a murder mystery theme that suddenly gets out of hand and very very real.
A lot of the fun within this movie comes from the joyful irony, with us knowing the kidnap and subsequent dramatics are in fact not part of the game that the group thinks it is. This is stretched to the right point as the film goes on because obviously at some point the pals need to realise they’re wrapped up in something much bigger, but twists and turns come into effect to throw us a curve-ball also.
John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein team up again after joint screenwriting credits for features like ‘Horrible Bosses’ & ‘Vacation’. These two inject a palpable level of energy to the film and with a neat and fairly clever script from Mark Perez, you get a cool spin on a comedy with moments of almost ingenious game inspired hi-jinks. It says something that a film like this actually keeps you hooked because it so easily could have fallen with unmemorable ease like a stray die behind the sofa.
There are a lot of American comedies that do end up being unfunny and highly predictable, gladly this is an example against that. The trailer does show off some of the funnier ideas but there’s still a good amount of comedic moments left to enjoy. The soundtrack adds a weighty energetic punch to proceedings and a cool ‘Birdman’-esque tracking shot following American Football style Faberge egg tactics is thoroughly entertaining, as is seeing Charades being used in an unlikely situation. The dumb kind of douchebag humour with one of the characters and a ‘Denzel’ cutaway sequence going on for a touch too long are the only sidesteps in what is a well handled comedy.
Bateman and McAdams pair up as a convincing duo obsessed with games and winning. Their relationship chemistry feels believable which goes a long way to help the story feel believable even if it does utilise some crazy antics. Billy Magnussen is the dumb stereotype I mentioned which grates after a while and see ‘Ingrid Goes West’ and ‘Black Mirror – USS Callister’ for further proof. Jesse Plemmons steals it all as the MVP with a creepy nature of stares and robotic vocals. Oh, lastly, I hugely lapped up the glorious cameos from one ‘Westworld’ figure and one TV serial killer.
It may not be an outright hilarious movie but it made me audibly laugh on numerous occasions and the real/game back and forth dynamic is one that keeps the interest peaked.